Three powerful technologies are being combined to drive a supply chain evolution: (1) blockchain and distributed ledger technology; (2) the Internet of Things (IoT); and (3) powerful machine learning capable cognitive tools (e.g., IBM's Watson) that are capable of analyzing vast amounts of data that humans simply can't do. The transformation occurring in supply chain management also impacts the trade finance that supports it. Approximately 80-90% of global trade is reliant on trade finance.
This transformation is not simply about converting from paper documents, such as letters of credit and bills of lading, to electronic documents. To the contrary, the changes that are occurring are about new ways that participants in supply chains can share information in a very granular and controlled manner, utilizing novel technology that allows economic participants to trust the outcome of transactions without any need to trust the actual counterparties to a transaction. Equally important is the ability of distributed ledgers to accomplish the foregoing without the need for a trusted third party to act as an intermediary for the transaction– disintermediation has become a key theme of distributed ledger technology, and supply chains and the trade financing vehicles that keep them operating are not exempt from this phenomenon.
The convergence of these three technologies will likely first impact the trade finance industry, which is estimated to be worth nearly $10 trillion a year. But the reach of these technologies extends to every facet of the supply chain and every industry, perhaps none more so than perishable food such as produce. The paper addresses both the near-term potential of these technologies with respect to trade finance, and the longer-term potential of these technologies with respect to the supply chain, and the produce industry in particular.